Tuesday 22 August 2017
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Special Interest Matters
Helicopter Tourism

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam Acting President, I want to labour a pun here.  Helicopter tourism is going to take off in Tasmania.  We know New Zealand and the advances it has made in tourism by having heli tours and using helicopters to travel the helicopter-friendly hotels.  I hope Tasmania will catch up to the example set by New Zealand.

A figure to give honourable members pause for thought is that in the year to March 2017, almost 11 500 visitors to Tasmania took a helicopter or a fixed-wing flight, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year.  Not much, but it is going to gain traction.

Six helicopter services offer experiences to visitors across Tasmania.  They are in Hobart, Launceston, Cradle Mountain, Stanley and Port Arthur.  One of the helicopter tourism hubs is virtually in central Launceston.  The member for Windermere will know this location well.  I mention the name Joe Pentridge.  We have visited the helicopter base for Heli-Adventures.  They fly or ferry visiting golfers to Barnbougle and Lost Farm.  A lot of traffic goes from Launceston to Saffire as well.  There are also landing facilities for golfers flying from Victoria to Barnbougle and Lost Farm.  A few years ago a light aircraft flew from China into Launceston Airport.  A couple of young fellows from China had come to play golf and fly back.  Is that not amazing?  Some people are extremely wealthy.

Helicopters based in Launceston and elsewhere fly visitors to destinations far from the normal tourist trail.  They fly to places such as Thousand Lakes Lodge, which I have spoken about before.  It is the old Bernacchi Lodge at Lake Augusta in the Central Highlands and is helicopter accessible.   The helipad is a 10-minute drive from the lodge.  The view over the central northern, Central Highlands area where the Thousand Lakes Lodge is located is spectacular.

A travel writer for the Australian Financial Review, Dan Stapleton, recently flew from the helipad to MONA, then to Thousand Islands Lodge and on to Swansea, landing at the helipad at Piermont, just south of the town.  Dan Stapleton then took a chopper to Par Avion's Hobart headquarters where he transferred to a light plane for the long-established service to the south-west wilderness.  He spent the best part of a week visiting some of Tasmania's iconic tourism places and barely used a road during the week he was in Tasmania.

Ms Forrest - How much did it cost?

Mr FINCH - As I say, for those people who are wealthy, cost does not come into it.  People are time-poor.  That is the issue for wealthy people.

Ms Forrest - It is not going to remove the need to use roads in the state.

Mr FINCH - They are busy making money and they need to spend that money, hopefully in Tasmania. 
One of Tasmania's six helicopter tourism operators is Osborne Heli Tours.  They operate in the north-west Stanley area and the Port Arthur region in the south.  They also operate a service to Tasman Island.  Imagine that spectacular lighthouse station.  It is very difficult to reach from the sea, but if you look at it from Cape Pillar, what a spectacular sight.  Imagine it from a helicopter.  Osborne Heli Tours will take you there for $145.  That is not outside the budget.  It might be outside our budget, but a lot of people can afford to pay that.  Helicopter rides are much cheaper than they used to be but are still expensive for some visitors.  I might point out, Madam Acting President -

Madam ACTING PRESIDENT - You probably need to point it out fairly quickly.

Mr FINCH - in your area, you have heli-bike tours and opportunities they are exploring at Derby, taking bikes and riders up to the top of the mountain and they can ride all the way back down.  It sounds luxurious.
There is some understandable resistance to heli-tourism from remote area bushwalkers.  They do not want those aircraft buzzing overhead when they are trying to get away from it all.  However, helicopters taking in track-building materials are tolerated, and sensitively operated services could be unobtrusive.  That is what you would hope to achieve.  There is a good road network in my West Tamar electorate, but I would not rule out a few helipads near vineyard cellar doors.  Helicopter tourism is about to take off in Tasmania.